Musicworks magazine: NJLQ Review

Originally published by Musicworks Magazine 

Guy Thouin is a key figure in Quebec musical history. As percussionist for the Quatuor de Jazz Libre du Quebec in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Thouin helped pioneer the free-jazz scene that still flourishes in the province. He also drummed on Robert Charlebois’ hit “Lindberg” – a rare pop song with a spontaneously improvised arrangement – and participated in the Walter Boudreau-led collective L’Infonie, listed in the group’s liner notes as Yug Niuoht.

Tenor and soprano saxophonist Bryan Highbloom met Thouin at an evening of film organized by Tenzier label magnate Eric Fillion in 2011. Highbloom has been playing free jazz in Montreal since 1968, and is also the music therapist and curator of an annual jazz festival at the Jewish General Hospital. Recognizing common interests in keeping the music as free as possible, Highbloom and Thouin joined forces to create the Nouveau Jazz Libre du Quebec. While nominally a duo, they regularly collaborate with special guests: Vancouver alto saxophonist Raymon Torchinsky, a long-time crony of Highbloom, sat in on the June 2013 concert heard on En Direct du Suoni per il Popolo.

The performance starts with the only standard included, a duo version of Monk’s “Bemsha Swing,” the theme of which is fragmented into bits and pieces and only fully stated in the coda. Reinterpretations of the the Quatuor de Jazz Libre’s works include “Valse a Grand-Mere,” here given a less jazzy treatment compared to the original, and Thouin’s “Tehai,” named for the Indian musical term (meaning “repeat three times”) that informs the structure. Highbloom contributes two contemplative versions of “String Theory,” which are subtitled “Horizon” and “Dimension Dance”. Torchinsky’s “Now and Then” features intertwining saxes glued together by Thouin’s percolating rhythms.

The gatefold sleeve of the clear-vinyl LP includes an ink drawing of the band by Gary Wildeman and extensive liner notes from Raymond Gervais and Fillion reviewing the history of free jazz in Quebec. The packaging artfully bridges then and now, a perfect match for the music.